On January 12, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Chief of General Staff Gen. Yasar Guler, Land Forces Commander Umit Dundar and Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan held a meeting in southern province of Hatay near the border with Syria and discussed the recent developments in the Syrian governorate of Idlib.
“All efforts are being made to maintain ceasefire, stability under Sochi agreement. Our close cooperation with Russia continues in this manner,” Akar said after the meeting, according to the Anadolu Agency.
Idlib is supposed to be surrounded by a demilitarized zone, which Russia and Turkey agreed upon last September. However, the zone is yet to be established due to the lack of any Turkish pressure on radical militants in the northern governorate.
The failure of the agreement has allowed radical groups, mainly Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), to expand their influence in the opposition-held part of northwestern Syria. Over the last 12 days, these radicals took over most of Idlib, along with strategic positions in Lattakia, Aleppo and Hama after defeating Turkish-backed groups.
Few days ago, Akar held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu in order to discuss the recent developments in Idlib. However, it is not clear yet if the two countries are now willing to step in and attack the radicals in the Idlib governorate, which has become a new safe haven for al-Qaeda in the Middle East.